A Game Per Year: In a Wicked Age (bonus 2007)

I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.

The cover of In a Wicked Age.

In a Wicked Age is a roleplaying game by D. Vincent Baker with a bronze age, Conan-type feel. It’s most interesting feature is a procedural mechanism for creating playable content.

The way it works is that in the beginning of a new chapter, you randomly choose four elements from an Oracle. The Oracles are themed, so you have a war Oracle, an undead Oracle and so on. These obviously follow the genre.

The randomized elements suggest characters who are then made into player characters and GM characters.

Instead of regular stats like Strength or Dexterity, the game’s character stats are based on motivation, style and context of the action. So the dice you get are not based on what you try to do but rather how or why you do it.

Examples are Covertly, For Myself and With Love.

Action in the game emerges most of all from conflicts between player characters. The characters are constructed to have conflicting interests so that scenes where they butt heads are bound to emerge.

One nice touch is a system where a character who goes against superior odds and survives gets their name added to a special list. This guarantees the character’s presence in future chapters of play. You can also make the decision to strike your character’s name off the list to gain an advantage, thus sacrificing your future for immediate benefit.

In a Wicked Age is an interesting game in terms of its mechanics, the kind you’d assign to students if you were teaching game design to be picked apart in class.

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